Count this as a complete surprise: The Falcons will be the next team featured on HBO's popular Hard Knocks series this summer.
The series follows a team through training camp, focusing in on the human drama inherent in position battles, branching out by talking to coaches, families and more and, of course, zeroing in on those players on the fringe who have a great underdog story. The series has featured the Ravens, Bengals, Cowboys, Jets, Chiefs and Dolphins since 2001, making the Falcons just the second NFC team to feature on Hard Knocks.
Obviously, this is great exposure for the Falcons and an opportunity to get the kind of national love that sometimes eludes this team. It also is going to be a sharply divisive show for Falcons fans, with some already excited and others viewing it as an unnecessary distraction after a 4-12 2013 season. I'm not 100% certain how I feel about this yet—the announcement blindsided me—but as a fan of the team, I'm at least going to enjoy getting deeper insight into the players from the show.
For what it's worth, no one's ever produced anything convincing saying a team's fortunes improve or go down the drain in a statistically significant waybecause they're on Hard Knocks, and this Grantland piece suggests that in stronger terms. Certainly Arthur Blank doesn't seem concerned:
"We are excited about the opportunity to give our fans a behind the scenes look at what it takes to prepare an NFL team for the rigors of a 16-game regular season and beyond," said Falcons Owner & Chairman Arthur M. Blank. "This marks the first time that our franchise will be featured on HARD KNOCKS and we look forward to showcasing our great players and coaches to football fans all across America."
We don't have a firm training camp schedule announced yet, but I'll keep you all in the loop as we learn more about this. Heck, we could all be on TV!